Northwest Yearly Meeting: Thanks to Aj Schwanz's wonderful weblog, I know something about what's going on at yearly meeting sessions. I've heard enough hints about the controversies surrounding our Friends World Committee for Consultation membership to be glad that my terribly prejudiced self was not at the business sessions. This year, as last, all I've been able to do during the yearly meeting sessions has been to attend the meetings of the Board of Peace and Social Concerns meetings each afternoon.
To do that, I've violated every sensible rule of living lightly—it takes me nearly an hour to drive the 28.1 miles between my home and George Fox University, and the round trip lasts almost as long as the board meeting itself. But I promised to serve on that board, and it is a wonderful community with a wonderful clerk (Rachel Hampton, just ending her current service as clerk), and I come home refreshed. There are lots of worse ways to find gratification.
Among our most important tasks: saying "thank you and farewell to our outgoing peace education coordinator, Cherice Bock of Newberg Friends Church, who is leaving shortly for the World Gathering of Young Friends in Lancaster, England, after which she begins her studies at Princeton Seminary. We've also welcomed her replacement, Kayla Walker Edin of West Hills Friends Church here in Portland. We were all very glad to hear that funding for this part-time position seems assured at least for this coming year.
Another important concern is strengthening our connections to the yearly meeting as a whole. To help with this, we had visits from Colin Saxton, current general superintendent of the yearly meeting (and former clerk of our board) and from former NWYM clerk Mark Ankeny, who visited on behalf of the committee preparing the yearly meeting's draft vision statement.
My heart sang when I read the draft vision statement. One of the things I love about Northwest Yearly Meeting is that, perhaps uniquely among the capital-E evangelical yearly meetings, it does not conceal the diversity of concerns and emphases within the community. It isn't ashamed of the words "peacemaking and social JUSTICE" (my emphasis!), putting them in the same sentence as evangelism and missions. The equality of men and women in leadership is (at least now!) given visibility. There's no embarrassment about being Friends rather than rootless cultural evangelicals. Granted, the vision statement (not yet available online, I believe) is aspirational rather than journalistic—we have a long way to go before we achieve the liveliness and comprehensiveness of the statement—but what worthy aspirations they are.
(By the way, I'm actually not qualified to make the claim about Northwest's uniqueness among capital-E evangelical yearly meetings. I have only been to two others in North America. Care to challenge me?)
On Tuesday, J.E. McNeil of the Center on Conscience and War made a presentation to our board concerning conscientious objection. Much of the material she presented was familiar to me, but I very much appreciated knowing how she presents it. I have rarely heard as eloquent a plea for taking our peace testimony seriously, for our own spiritual health as well as the well-being of the nations.
I agreed to be on a subcommittee to recommend peace-related books for the reading list for pastors and for the recording process (that is, the process of discernment and preparation to be recorded as public ministers of the Gospel in the minutes of Northwest Yearly Meeting). We keep hearing that some pastors feel inadequately acquainted with the social and ethical dimensions of Quaker discipleship, and people who come from outside Friends to serve as pastors are even less likely to be prepared. And it is also true to say that the peace testimony meets with variable acceptance in some of our local churches.
Next year I hope I can attend more of the full yearly meeting sessions and reduce the gasoline-to-inspiration ratio. But if all I got was this year's eight hours of a board meeting, it was time well spent.
Photos: for those who don't see the "alt" text, the photos (top to bottom) show: (1) Rachel Hampton, Grace Kuto, and Peggy Hanson; (2) Kayla Edin and Colin Saxton; (3) Ralph Beebe and Pacific YM visitor Carl Magruder; (4) J.E. McNeil.
Perspective: In connection with her third tour of duty with Christian Peacemaker Teams (or is it her fourth? I lose count!), Maxine Nash writes that she has "arrived safely in Baghdad." Our family was thinking over this interesting phrase last night at dinner. From our perspective, wherever Maxine came from must surely have been safer. (For the record, it was Amman; and just a few weeks ago she was in Iowa!) But to her credit ... to the credit of her strong faith and sense of being led ... she probably wrote those words without irony.
Friday PS: During my academic year at Woodbrooke, ending a little over a year ago, I really enjoyed getting to know the city of Birmingham, England. It reminded me in some ways of my favorite American city, Chicago.
However, it wasn't the Birmingham weather that reminded me of Chicago ... at least not until yesterday. One familiar feature of living in the midwestern USA is the threat of tornadoes. Yesterday, a destructive tornado hit Birmingham (coverage by Birmingham Post is here; BBC West Midlands here). Amazingly, in all this destruction there were apparently no deaths, although a number of people were seriously injured.